las­cia Ch’io Pianga

Guitar Techniques - - CONTENTS -

Brid­get Mer­mikides ar­ranges and tran­scribes a gen­tle aria that re­quires a sub­tle ap­proach to melody, taken from Han­del’s opera, Ri­naldo.

In this in­stal­ment of our clas­si­cal gui­tar se­ries we tackle a work by one of the great­est com­posers in the his­tory of Western Art mu­sic, Ge­orge Frid­eric Han­del (1685-1759).

Born in the same year as both Jo­hann Se­bas­tian Bach and Domenico Scar­latti (a good year for mu­sic!), Han­del’s long and pro­duc­tive ca­reer – mainly based in Lon­don – would leave an in­deli­ble print on the devel­op­ment of con­cert and opera mu­sic. As is not al­ways so with the great com­posers, Han­del was both crit­i­cally ac­claimed and suc­cess­ful dur­ing his life­time, and ad­mired by com­posers as es­teemed as Bach who claimed that Han­del, “un­der­stood af­fect bet­ter than any of us”. Beethoven said he was, “the mas­ter of us all” and the “great­est com­poser who ever lived” and ad­vised com­posers to “go to him to learn how to achieve great ef­fects, by such sim­ple means”.

On his death in 1789, Han­del was given full state hon­ours and buried in West­min­ster Abbey. By this time, Han­del’s list of out­puts was so vast that it’s a job in it­self to cat­a­logue them all, com­pro­mis­ing a stag­ger­ing 42 op­eras, 29 or­a­to­rios, over 120 can­tatas, 84 hymns, 56 con­cer­tos, 23 con­certi grossi and hun­dreds of other or­ches­tral works, songs and in­stru­men­tal pieces for a range of en­sem­bles. Among these, the Mes­siah (and its Hal­lelu­jah cho­rus) is one of the most fa­mous choral works of all time; and his Wa­ter Mu­sic, and Mu­sic For The Royal Fire­works are sta­ple works in Bri­tish mu­sic cul­ture.

In this ar­ti­cle, I’ve ar­ranged his stun­ningly beau­ti­ful so­prano aria Las­cia Ch’io Pianga, best known from his 1711 opera Ri­naldo (al­though this was in fact the fourth use of this melody in Han­del’s works, which orig­i­nally ap­peared in the opera Almira). The aria is sung by the char­ac­ter Almirena in Act 2 of Ri­naldo as she mourns her im­pris­on­ment by the sorcer­ess Ar­mida. In this ex­quis­ite melody, we can hear the “mas­tery of great ef­fect through sim­ple means”, of which Beethoven speaks. The rhyth­mi­cally sim­ple melody in 3/2 co­in­cides with chordal blocks, and so fits quite el­e­gantly on the gui­tar (al­though I’ve trans­posed it from E to A Ma­jor). As such, this is not the most chal­leng­ing piece of the se­ries, al­though you will need a level of flu­ency to cap­ture the del­i­cate magic of Han­del’s melody.


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